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THE

CORNHILL MAGAZINE.

SEPTEMBER, 1874.

Far from the Madding Crowd.

CHAPTER XXXIX.

COMING HOME: A CRY.

[graphic]

N the turnpike-road, between

Casterbridge and Weatherbury, and about a mile from the latter place, is one of those steep long ascents which pervade the highways of this undulating district. In returning from market it is usual for the farmers and other gig-gentry to alight at the bottom and

walk up.

One Saturday evening in the month of October Bathsheba's vehicle was duly creeping up this incline. She was sitting list

lessly in the second seat of HP.

the gig, whilst walking be

side ber in a farmer's marketing suit of unusually fashionable cut was an erect, well-made young man. Though on foot, he held the reins and whip, and occasionally aimed light cuts at the borge's ear with the end of the lash, as a recreation. This man was her husband, formerly Sergeant Troy, who, having bought his discharge with Bathsheba’s money, was gradually transforming himself into a farmer VOL. XXX.- NO. 177.

13.

of a spirited and very modern school. People of unalterable ideas still insisted upon calling him “Sergeant" when they met him, which was in some degree owing to his having still retained the well-shaped moustache of his military days, and the soldierly bearing inseparable from his form.

• Yes, if it hadn't been for that wretched rain I should have cleared two hundred as easy as looking, my love," he was saying. “Don't you see, it altered all the chances ? To speak like a book I once read, wet weather is the narrative, and fine days are the episodes, of our country's history; now,

isn't that true?"
“ But the time of year is come for changeable weather."

“ Well, yes. The fact is, these autumn races are the ruin of everybody. Never did I see such a day as 'twas ! 'Tis a wild open place, not far from the sands, and a drab sea rolled in towards us like liquid misery. Wind and rain-good Lord! Dark ? Why, 'twas as black as my hat before the last race was run. 'Twas five o'clock, and you couldn't see the horses till they were almost in, leave alone colours. The ground was as heavy as lead, and all judgment from a fellow's experience went for nothing. Horses, riders, people, were all blown about like ships at sea. Three booths were blown over, and the wretched folk inside crawled out upon their hands and knees; and in the next field were as many as a dozen hats at one time. Aye, Pimpernel regularly stuck fast when about sixty yards off, and when I saw Policy stepping on, it did knock my heart against the lining of my ribs, I assure you, my love ! ”

And you mean, Frank,” said Bathsheba, sadly–her voice was painfully lowered from the fulness and vivacity of the previous summer—" that you have lost more than a hundred pounds in a month by this dreadful horseracing ? Oh, Frank, it is cruel ; it is foolish of you to take away my money so. We shall have to leave the farm ; that will be the end of it!"

“ Humbug about cruel. Now, there 'tis again-turn on the waterworks; that's just like you."

“But you'll promise me not to go to Budmouth races next week, won't you ?" she implored. Bathsheba was at the full depth for tears, but she maintained a dry eye.

“I don't see why I should ; in fact, if it turns out to be a fine day, I was thinking of taking you.”

“Never, never! I'll go a hundred miles the other way first. I hate the sound of the very word !”

“But the question of going to see the race or staying at home has very little to do with the matter. Bets are all booked safely enough before the race begins, you may depend. Whether it is a bad race for me or a good one, will have very little to do with our going there next Monday.”

“But you don't mean to say that you have risked anything on this one too!” she exclaimed, with an agonised look.

“ There now, don't you be a little fool. Wait till you are told. Why, Batheheba, you've lost all the pluck and sauciness you formerly had, and

upon my life if I had known what a chicken-hearted creature you were under all your boldness, I'd never have I know what.”

A flash of indignation might have been seen in Bathsheba's dark eyes as she looked resolutely ahead after this reply. They moved on without further speech, some early-withered leaves from the beech trees which hooded the road at this spot occasionally spinning downward across their path to the earth.

A woman appeared on the brow of the hill. The ridge was so abrupt that she was very near the husband and wife before she became visible. Troy had turned towards the gig to remount, and whilst putting his foot on the step the woman passed behind him.

Though the overshadowing trees and the approach of eventide enveloped them in gloom, Bathsheba could see plainly enough to discern the extreme poverty of the woman's garb, and the sadness of her face.

“Please, sir, do you know at what time Casterbridge Union-house closes at night?"

The woman said these words to Troy over his shoulder.

Troy started visibly at the sound of the voice; yet he seemed to recover presence of mind sufficient to prevent himself from giving way to his impulse to suddenly turn and face her. He said slowly

"I don't know.”

The woman, on hearing him speak, quickly looked up, examined the side of his face, and recognised the soldier under the yeoman's garb. Her face was drawn into an expression which had gladness and agony both among its elements. She uttered a hysterical cry, and fell down.

“Oh, poor thing!"exclaimed Bathsheba, instantly preparing to alight.

“Stay where you are, and attend to the horse ! ” said Troy, peremptorily, throwing her the reins and the whip. “Walk the horse to the top: I'll see to the woman."

“ But I -
“Do you hear? Cik-Poppet!"
The horse, gig, and Bathsheba moved on.

“How on earth did you come here ? I thought you were miles away, or dead! Why didn't you write to me?” said Troy to the woman, in a strangely gentle, yet hurried voice, as he lifted her up.

I feared to."
“Have you any money ?”
“ None.”

" Good Heaven— I wish I had more to give you! Here's—wretched -the merest trifle. It is every farthing I have left. I bave none but what my wife gives me, you know, and I can't ask her now."

The woman made no answer.

I have only another moment,” continued Troy; "and now listen. Where are you going to-night? Casterbridge Union ?”

“Yes ; I thought to go there." " You shan't go there : yet, wait. Yes, perhaps for to-night; I can

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